On March 5, 2010, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed Jodey Waldrop’s conviction and death sentence, ruling that his jury improperly was allowed to consider highly prejudicial prior conviction evidence.
Jodey Waldrop was convicted of capital murder in the death of his infant son, which the State alleged was caused by shaking. Mr. Waldrop testified that the baby stopped breathing, and he shook him slightly and performed CPR in attempting to revive him.
Evidence was introduced that Mr. Waldrop had a prior assault conviction for striking a fugitive who attacked him with a baseball bat while he was working for a bail bondsman.
EJI appealed Mr. Waldrop’s conviction and death sentence and argued that his conviction was illegal due to improper jury instructions that allowed the jury to improperly find him guilty based on the prior assault allegation.
The appeals court reversed Mr. Waldrop’s conviction, holding that the trial court should have given the jury an instruction about the proper use of prior conviction evidence. “We cannot assume that the jury would have understood, without instruction, that it could use evidence about Waldrop’s prior conviction only for impeachment,” the court wrote. “Rather, we must conclude that . . . the evidence about Waldrop’s prior conviction was presumptively prejudicial and its impact was egregious . . . .”